Health & Beauty


Why do people pick their nose?

Nose picking is a curious habit. According to a studyTrusted Source published in 1995, 91 percent of people who responded to the questionnaire reported they do it, while just 75 percent thought “everyone does it.” In short, we’re all stuffing our fingers up our schnozzes from time to time.

Why people pick their nose likely differs from person to person. Noses that are dry or overly moist may be irritating. A quick pick can relieve some discomfort.

Some people pick their nose out of boredom or a nervous habit. Allergies and sinus infections can increase the amount of mucus in the nose, too.

In rare situations, nose picking is a compulsive, repetitive behavior. This condition, called rhinotillexomania, often accompanies stress or anxiety and other habits like nail-biting or scratching. For people with this condition, nose picking can briefly ease anxiety.

But most people who pick their nose, including those who do it in the car, do so out of habit, not compulsion.

Nose picking may not be socially acceptable, but it’s rarely dangerous.

Can nose picking cause damage?

Nose picking is a bit like pimple popping, scab scratching, or ear cleaning with cotton swabs. You know you shouldn’t, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.

Picking your nose is unlikely to cause you any serious problems. Still, these potential issues are especially problematic for people who are ill or have a weaker immune system:

  • Infection. Fingernails can leave tiny cuts in your nasal tissue. Potentially dangerous bacteria can find their ways into these openings and cause infections. A study published in 2006 found that people who pick their nose are more likely to carry Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that’s responsible for what could become a serious infection.
  • Spreading illnesses. Mucus catches dust, bacteria, viruses, and dust that you breathe in every day. You could share those germs if you pick your nose. One study found that nose pickers may spread the bacterium that’s responsible for a large amount of pneumonia.
  • Nasal cavity damage. Frequent or repetitive picking can damage your nasal cavity. One study found that people with compulsive nose picking (rhinotillexomania) may experience inflammation and swelling of the nasal tissue. Over time, this may narrow the nostril openings.
  • Nosebleeds. Scratching and digging in your nose may break or rupture delicate blood vessels. This can lead to bleeding.
  • Sores. Nasal vestibulitis is inflammation at the opening and front part of your nasal cavity. It’s commonly caused by minor infection with Staphylococcus. This condition can cause sores that can develop painful scabs. Likewise, when you pick your nose, you may pluck nose hairs out of their follicles. Small pimples or boils can form in those follicles.
  • Septum damage. The septum is a portion of bone and cartilage that divides the left and right nostrils. Regular nose picking may damage the septum and even cause a hole.
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